As with any project or journey; knowing where you want to wind up helps guide you through the process of getting there. Planning power control for lighting is no different. There are a number of questions to ask as you go through your planning process.
Answers to these questions will give you a solid starting point as you consider the existing environment, and your answers can dramatically change the lighting control system price. How many total circuits do you need to control? Are you working with an existing circuit breaker panel? Can you add or replace breakers in an existing panel? Should you use motorized circuit breakers or add a relay lighting control panel? Do you have a control platform in place to manage your panels or do you need one?
Let’s look at some of these questions in more detail.
How many electrical circuits are you controlling?
The first and most important question is how many lights or electrical appliances do you want to control and how many circuits will be required to provide power to these devices? Systems are available to control from one to 168 circuits with a single interface or controller.
For smaller circuit counts, or for retrofit applications where an acceptable electrical panel is already in place, we generally recommend a relay panel. Lighting control relay panels are available with 4 to 64 relays installed and can range in price from $800 to $11,000 depending on relay counts and control preferences. Simple control platforms with a single control protocol interface and only a few relays installed will be at the bottom of the price range. Complex browser based IP control systems with multiple control protocol inputs and 64 relays installed will be toward the upper end of the range mentioned.
When new panels are being installed, we usually recommend a controllable breaker panel with switch grade motorized circuit breakers. These panels save space and wiring expenses by combining circuit breaker functionality and switching into the same device. So even though the cost is higher to purchase a panel, the overall project cost usually decreases when you convert to controllable breaker panels.
As with relay panels, a controllable breaker panel price will vary widely based on how many circuits you want to control and which control option selected. A simple load center complete with control board and a dozen or so motorized circuit breakers can cost under $2,500, at the other end of the spectrum a fully loaded LynTec RPC with a browser based IP controller, fully loaded with 42 positions of controllable breakers and full current monitoring can approach $15,000. Our average panel price out the door is almost exactly in between those two numbers.
Another price advantage to upgrading to smart circuit breaker panels is that we have economies of scale involved. When using the RPC with the more advanced browser based IP control system, you can manage or control the breakers in multiple panels (up to 168 total breakers). The secondary secondary panels that are controlled by the main control panel cost much less because they do not include their own control electronics. This lowers the cost of multiple panel lighting control systems. The more remotely controlled circuits you add, the cheaper the system becomes on a “per controlled circuit” basis.
Obviously there is a multitude of variables to take into account. But with a circuit count and control preference, we can quote the project a number of different ways to show you the most cost effective lighting control system that meets your project requirements.
How will you control these circuits?
This is the second most important question to answer, which is why it has already been referred to above. There are really three parts to this question:
First, do you have an existing control platform or building management system in place or do you need one? If you already have a control platform in place, or if you simply want push button operation, your lighting control options are very inexpensive. LynTec has single protocol control boards that can very easily interface with existing management systems that communicate in IP, DMX-512, RS-232 or contact closure commands. So if you have a master control system in place, simply let us know which protocol you’d like to use, and your panel will ship with your preferred control card in place.
If you need a controller for your lighting control panel, then we can install a smart control system that has its own browser based IP interface. Install the panel, plug in a network connection, and you can access the interface on any phone, tablet or computer with a browser. This system allows you to forgo the expense of purchasing, installing and learning a new software program as it’s already built in to our self-contained lighting control panel. This upgrade will typically add 10% to the cost of a traditional lighting control panelboard, but adds numerous additional features.
Second, do you want to control the lighting panels with a single communication protocol or to interface with multiple protocols? If you are planning a more complex lighting control system and would like your circuits to respond to multiple inputs, you would need the same browser based IP control board referred to in the previous question. In addition to taking direct inputs, it can also respond to multiple protocols simultaneously. For example, you can have sensors installed that trigger a group or zone of circuits, but you can also have that same zone with scheduled on/off times or connected to an IP or RS-232 touch screen. Again, these are standard features in the smart lighting control platform and add very little to the cost of your lighting control system.
Third, do you require, or would you like to have remote control or monitoring capabilities? If the answer to this question is yes, then again, you have selected the RPC family of products with the included browser based IP control option. IP by definition is a two-way communication protocol and we’ve built in the capabilities to provide panel data back to you in real time across the browser interface. The most popular use for this capability (after using it to monitor breaker status) is to monitor power usage. With a current monitoring package upgrade to a motorized circuit breaker panel, we can provide power consumption data (current, voltage, power factor etc. by circuit, phase or panel total) in real time or interface directly with your building management system. This upgrade can add $3,000 to $4,000 to the price of your control panel depending on the hardware/software package you prefer.
Lighting Control Panel Price Summary
The price of an automated lighting control panel or system can vary widely based on:
- How many circuits that you’d like to control
- Which control method, and how many control protocol types you’d like to use
- Whether or not remote IP control and/or monitoring will be used or needed
In addition, there are many forms of customization that can take place, or electrical options that may be required. Each of these will add to the price of a lighting control panel. Options that you may be interested in include:
- Current monitoring to comply with energy management initiatives. Current monitoring can be added to controllable breaker panels at the factory, relay panel current monitoring systems are usually added in the field.
- Surge protection at the circuit level or lightning protection added to the panel. Again, both of these options can be added to controllable panelboards at the factory, while relay panels do not have these options available.
- Brown out or under voltage protection. This feature is standard with controllable breaker panels, and optional on relay panels. It allows the panel to measure voltage and automatically shut down to prevent electrical damage during periods of under-voltage (sometimes referred to as a brownout). The system can then restart as programmed when normal voltage returns.
- Outbound relay control of remote outlets or contactors. If you would like to control high current loads with contactors or individual outlets (e.g. plugs on a UPS), your smart breaker or smart relay panel can be fitted with outbound addressing and control of remote devices.
- And last, there are numerous customizations that can take place in the panel as well. For example, special main breaker sizing, MLO panels or NEMA 3 enclosures just to name a few.